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Living Emotional Crutch

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He's there for the ruff times.

Leslie: You just do everything your boyfriend tells you to do? Make any pancakes lately?
Ann: He has two broken legs.
Leslie: Yeah, and he's got three crutches. And one of them is you. And the other two are crutches.

This person, let's call her Alice,note  provides a troubled character, let's call him Bob,note  with the emotional, psychological, and/or moral support to function. Sometimes to function at all. She might be his first good friend, a Love Interest, a psychiatrist/priest Confidant, or a full-blown Caretaker to Bob, serving as a Morality Chain or Kid with the Leash to rein in Bob's darker tendencies, deliver pep talks and administer a Cooldown Hug.

Summed up, while she's alive and near him, Bob is a better, happier person.

This is why she will usually get kidnapped or killed. Bob's reaction will be one of two extremes: a psychotic Unstoppable Rage on par with The Hulk in the throes of withdrawal from Gamma-Cocaine, or comatose gibbering; see also Went Crazy When They Left. The middle road is a Tranquil Fury of deadly determination.

There are some dark uses of this trope. If Bob is psychotically possessive, he will go to any lengths to protect Alice from perceived threats, culminating in destroying everyone she loves so she becomes trapped in an All Take and No Give relationship. This is especially tragic if Alice genuinely wants to help him, but he's already sliding too far to help. When she inevitably leaves him/is rescued, Bob's mental state takes a nosedive.

Sometimes, Alice will be able to introduce Bob to other friends, lessening his dependence on her. Very rarely, she will be able to cure him of his dependence entirely, or give him the necessary tools and resolve to survive when she's gone.

This trope has some basis in Real Life. People like Bob might be diagnosed with dependent personality disorder or, if they're cripplingly shy around most others, avoidant personality disorder.

Compare The Heart, when the character is this to the others in their group.


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    Comic Books 
  • Grandville: LeBrock progressively becomes this for Billie as she realizes she's not just a short-term conquest and he's genuinely falling for her, bringing her closer and closer to actually feeling happy in her life. The downside of this is that she's prone to strong, almost violent emotional reactions whenever she fears he may change his attitude to her or maybe even leave her.
  • Superman:
    • Deconstructed in the Supergirl/Green Lantern crossover Red Daughter of Krypton. Guy Gardner tries to convince his ex-girlfriend Ice to get back together, stating that she keeps him sane. She replies that it isn't a good foundation for a relationship.
      Guy: Come on, babe. Give me a shot. I need this— out there...It's no easy. I need a reason to keep it together.
      Tora: Guy, you have your good qualities. But you must see why the idea of being your sole link to sanity is less than appealing to me. The weight of that — we'd never get out from under it.
    • In The Untold Story of Argo City, Allura In-Ze misses her daughter Kara terribly, to the point she gets sick because her daughter is not around. She even steals an android doll only because it looks like Kara, and briefly deludes herself into believing she is her daughter.
    • In the Injustice franchise, Superman goes rogue when Lois Lane gets murdered.
  • Exploited in Watchmen, where The Government employs young women (Janey Slater and later, Laurie Juspeczyk) as Living Emotional Crutches for the Physical God Dr. Manhattan, realizing that this is pretty much the only thing that can preserve the last shreds of humanity within him (and also incidentally, keep him on the planet and working for the right people). True enough, as soon as Laurie dumps him, Dr. Manhattan moves to Mars with no intention of ever visiting humanity again. And it's Laurie again who manages to renew his interest in humanity and come back to Earth, however briefly.
  • The Internship: At the conclusion of Volume 3, Cooper admits to River that Andy became this for him, saying that he’s the only reason why Coop hasn’t just put a gun to his head to escape his misery. However, it’s Deconstructed in that Cooper acknowledges that this isn’t healthy, neither for him nor for Andy. Coop wants a place of his own partially because he feels he owes Andy for supporting him for so long despite his BS, but also because he wants to outgrow his dependence on him.

    Comic Strips 
  • Many of the more poignant Calvin and Hobbes stories imply this. In spite of bullies and all sorts of other bad things in his life, Calvin will always have his best friend Hobbes.
  • A lot of the relationships in Peanuts are shown to be this, since the characters are brimful with neuroses. (Just temporarily take someone out of the picture and place your bets on who will have a breakdown. Someone always does.) Even Linus's blanket is an example, as it often takes on a life of its own.

    Films — Animation 
  • Belle is the Beast's emotional crutch in Beauty and the Beast. According to Word of God, Beast hides the carcasses of animals he's slaughtered in the west wing, which is part of why he doesn't want her in there; if Belle hadn't come along, he would have turned full Beast and lost his humanity.
  • Marlin to Dory in Finding Nemo. Normally she's a Cloudcuckoolander with all the long term memory of a sieve, but when she meets up with Marlin on his quest to rescue his son, she finds she can focus and remember the address of the dentist who has captured Nemo. When Marlin loses faith in finding Nemo, he leaves her to avoid remembering. Her speech pleading him to stay is one big Tear Jerker, as is her state when Nemo later finds her swimming to and fro trying desperately to remember what exactly she lost.
  • Frozen:
    • Anna is her older sister Elsa's emotional crutch in Frozen. The two spend most of the movie separated, during which Elsa is depressed, emotionally unstable, and very anxious. Their reconciliation helps Elsa become a much happier and emotionally stable person. It becomes deconstructed and more downplayed in the sequel, where Elsa asks Anna "What would I do without you?" and Anna promises "You'll always have me." Anna takes this seriously, to the point that she puts herself in disproportionate amounts of danger just to help Elsa, like running into a fire to help her although she's the one with less protection from fire, and not noticing when other people want her attention because she's so focused on taking care of Elsa that she forgets to think of herself as her own person. By the end, their restored relationship still aids Elsa's happiness, but she learns to find fulfillment from following her calling, living in the woods fully embracing her magical nature to being queen in Arendelle where she can see Anna more often but has more responsibilities. She takes joy in their relationship, sustained with visits and letters but lives happily in another place.
    • Elsa is a downplayed one to Anna. Anna hits her Despair Event Horizon and nearly gives up in Frozen II after Elsa has a Disney Death. She keeps going, but is extremely depressed while doing so. She laments that she's mostly lived her life around Elsa — even when separated, she focused on trying to help Elsa and asking Elsa what she wanted — and isn't sure how else to live, asking "How to rise from the floor, when it's not you I'm rising for?" Afterwards, Elsa comes back to life but decides to move away, and Anna accepts this, having learned how to live without living for her sister and to see herself as a leader in her own right.
  • In Tekkonkinkreet, White and Black have been living together for years. When they are forcibly separated, White starts filling out his Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book (and the walls) and Black makes a White puppet and talks to it like it was White. Then the mooks shoot the puppet, which triggers Black's Despair Event Horizon and releases the Superpowered Evil Side.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's red panda form is uncontrollably triggered through strong emotions, and she despises it to the point of hurting herself just to make the transformations stop. However, once her friends (Miriam, Priya, and Abby) assert that they love her no matter what, Mei becomes more emotionally balanced and learns to control her transformations by imagining her friends comforting her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major plot point in About Alex. Ben is this to Alex and majorly resents Alex for putting him in the position. Alex's main arc is learning to let Ben go.
  • In Adam (2009), Beth Buchwald tries to become one of these and use The Power of Love to help poor Adam be just like All of the Other Reindeer. It doesn't work.
  • In Disco Pigs, Runt is this for Pig. When she starts showing interest in other people, things go south very quickly.
  • Halloween (2007) plays Michael's obsession with Laurie this way, being the only person in his family he loved other than his dead mother. It doesn't end well.
  • Daisy the puppy, a gift to John Wick from his recently-deceased wife, is a combination Living Emotional Crutch and Morality Chain. And then, a few days after his wife dies, someone just had to murder the dog while stealing his Cool Car.
  • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), the Odd Friendship between ex-Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux and Asian knife-user Billy Rocks turns out to be based on this, with Goodnight (who suffers from severe PTSD) flat out stating that Billy "keeps me on the level." Later in the movie, it turns out that it goes both ways, as Billy is driven to drink when Goodnight abandons town.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are this to each other. Steve's Heroic Sacrifice in Captain America: The First Avenger comes on the heels of Bucky's own supposed death earlier in the film, while Bucky's actor Sebastian Stan comments that the only reason that Bucky hasn't put a bullet in his own skull by the time of Captain America: Civil War after regaining his memories, both as himself and as the Winter Soldier, is because it will only cause Steve pain now that they both know the other is alive. After Peggy's death at the beginning of Civil War, Bucky is the only tie Steve has left to his original time, and, in many ways, the only family he really has left, which is why he can't let his best friend go, no matter how hard he tries.
    • Tony Stark's crutch is his long-time Beleaguered Assistant and Hypercompetent Sidekick Pepper Potts. All three of the Iron Man movies make it clear that he can't function without her — and that includes before they finally acted on the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them (which is implied to have lasted almost as long as they've known each other) and became a couple. It's strongly implied that many of Tony's poor choices over the course of Civil War is because, at the time, he and Pepper were no longer in a relationship.
    • After losing his parents, his closest friends, his home, half his people, his beloved weapon, and one of his eyes, Thor’s younger brother Loki seems to have become his emotional crutch. Loki’s death crushes whatever thin shell remained between Thor and despair, to the point that he doesn’t even try to save himself after Thanos leaves them to die; he just crawls over to his brother’s body and sobs on it as their ship explodes around them.
  • The movie May had the eponymous May form a close relationship with Adam and ever so gingerly crawls out of her Shrinking Violet pot...only for things to Go Horribly Wrong when they later break up. She descends into full-on horror-movie Serial Killer mode and proceeds to make the friend of her dreams from the most beautiful body parts of those around her.
  • M3GAN: The titular M3gan was a robot invented by a woman to watch over her niece as she grieves over the loss of her parents. M3gan works as a deconstruction for being too well on this: instead of helping Cady process her grief and loss, she instead becomes a replacement for her parents as a primary caregiver, leading to a Cady that is much more unstable than what she would be without her as she will throw jealous and even violent tantrums provided she spends too long away from M3gan.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Hank is this to the dispirited Charles; the latter is so desperate to escape from his mental pain that he would most likely have died from alcohol poisoning if McCoy wasn't around to supervise him. But it works the other way around, too, as the approval-seeking Hank has voluntarily suppressed his individuality (i.e. he has no career, hobby, or social life) just to attend to Xavier's needs 24/7, and is thus defining himself exclusively through his dutiful service to his ex-mentor. These are strong indicators that they are both trapped in an unhealthy codependent relationship.

  • Deconstructed in Ally Burnett's "We Would've Broken Up Once You Heard This Song Anyway".
    I want you to know that when I leave
    It'll be the last you'll ever see of me
    I tried so damn hard to fix you
    To make you believe in what I see
    If you wanna be broken, be broken
    I won't dare try to mend you again
    I've tried my best to get through
    But there's no getting in
  • "Don't Let Me Down" by The Chainsmokers feat. Daya sings of somebody going insane and trying to cling to the one person they've felt they could count on.
    It's in my head. Darling I hope
    That you'll be here when I need you the most.
  • Dinosaur Jr.: "The Post"
    She's my post to lean on
    And I just cut her down
  • Evanescence:
    • "My Immortal":
      When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
      When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
      And I held your hand through all of these years
    • "Taking Over Me":
      I have to be with you to live, to breathe
    • "All That I'm Living For":
      Take my darkest fears and play them
      Like a lullaby
      Like a reason why
      Like a play of my obsessions
      Make me understand the lesson
      So I'll find myself
      So I won't be lost again
  • "Crutch" by Matchbox Twenty.
    I don't wanna be a crutch, one step away from down
  • "Oleander" by Mother Mother with a hearty dose of All Take and No Give:
    I make a mess and you'll be there to help me undress
    I'll be unclean, I'll be obscene, you'll be the rest
    And if you leave me, rest assured it would kill me
  • The narrator of Red's "Pieces.". As it is a God Is Love Song, God is his crutch.
    You call my name
    I come to You in pieces
    So You can make me whole
    I've come undone
    But You make sense of who I am
    Like puzzle pieces in Your hand
  • Taylor Swift's "Forever Winter", off the rerecorded version of Red (2012), is about the narrator's close friend, who reveals he's suffering from suicidal depression. The narrator, distraught at how much pain her friend is in, begs him to hang on, and essentially offers to be this for him, telling him she'll always love him and promising to "be summer sun for [him] forever." She also implies he might be this to her, to a less dire extent, as she says without him, she'd be "forever winter."
  • "Nothing to Lose but You" by Three Days Grace is an ode to one.
    You're the only hope that I hold inside
    Cause you know all my secrets
    All my demons and you keep 'em in check
    I know that I can't undo
    The self-destruction, the damage I've done
    I've got nothing to lose but you
    And I lose it everyday inside of my head
    I don't know if I'll be alright
    Cause if I didn't have you, I'd be better off dead
    You're the reason I'm still alive

    Professional Wrestling 
  • One of the most tragic real-life examples of this was Eddie Guerrero to Chris Benoit. Eddie was Chris' dearest friend, who Chris himself credited with being able to keep him on a stable footing, and when Eddie died young, Chris (who was already a man struggling with demons) just fell apart completely, eventually resulting in the biggest tragedy in wrestling history.
    Chris Benoit: <at the WWE Memorial Show dedicated to Eddie> He was the one friend that I had that I could go to and pour my heart out to if I was going through something, a personal issue, a personal problem. He was the one guy that I could call and talk to, and know that he'd understand and... he would talk me out of it.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Discussed by comedian Chris Porter, who was this in one relationship and didn't much care for it:
    "I was with a girl who couldn't live without me; I thought that's what you wanted... It was like having a puppy that can text you."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Heirs of Blood campaign in Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Alric Farrow is the only thing that can keep his brother Merrick from flipping from the nightmarish visions in his head. When Alric dies, Merrick marries the Big Bad, works with her to raise Alric as an undead monstrosity, and generally becomes evil and destructive.

  • In Antony and Cleopatra, according to Enobarbus, men to women, because women supposedly can't control their emotions.
    Enobarbus: Why, then, we kill all our women. We see how mortal an unkindness is to them. If they suffer our departure, death’s the word.
  • In Company, the lyrics of What Would We Do Without You? indicate that Bobby is this to his married friends, or at least to their marriages.
    What would we do without you?
    How would we ever get through?
    Should there be a marital squabble,
    Available Bob'll
    Be there with the glue.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Agnes is this for Jasper. Out of all the people we briefly see in Jasper's life, she's the one person who doesn't treat Jasper like a failure and/or a problem.
  • In Lizzie, Emma is this to her younger sister, the title character. Lizzie's already pretty unstable, but it is very telling that she finally snaps and commits double homicide when Emma's left town for a few days.

    Web Comics 
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl deconstructs this with Mike and Lucy's relationship. At the start of the series, she's extremely heavy on the Slap-Slap part of Slap-Slap-Kiss...but if anything happens to Mike that she's not inflicting, she breaks down. Mike is painfully aware of his Crutch status, and secretly resents it — so much so that by the time Lucy's Character Development has made her less abusive and willing to admit her feelings, he rejects them, having been worn down into someone who's a lot less nice.
  • Deconstructed with Satellite Character 13 in Depression Comix. The unseen depressive's manipulations and dependence on her leaves her so exhausted that she eventually leaves him. Some time later, she learns that he committed suicide.
  • In Drowtales, Ariel has this relationship with Faen, being the first person she called friend. Also suggested to go the other way as well, since Faen is an unstable empath who has difficulty relating to people.
  • Fox Maharassa was a Crutch to boyfriend/best friend Collin throughout most of Friendly Hostility. When Fox loses the Crutch status, the relationship falls apart, although this is only one of the factors that resulted in the Downer Ending.
  • Black and White from Grey is... are this to each other. Black needs White around to be able to think clearly and White needs Black to bring color into his world. Their friends and family, however, saw this as unhealthy, which eventually leads to White leaving for two years.
  • Gamma is Zimmy's Crutch (among other things) in Gunnerkrigg Court. Zimmy cannot function without Gamma. Zimmy's powers leak out whenever Gamma falls asleep or is absent. This normally wouldn't be so's just Zimmy's powers consist of Reality Warping, which often sucks nearby other people into demented and twisted hallucinations.
  • In Homestuck, one of the four kinds of troll romance is moirallegiance, in which a relatively calm troll pacifies a dangerously hot-tempered one. There are several in-story examples. In particular, Eridan and Feferi's relationship is a deconstruction of this. Feferi keeps Eridan's genocidal tendencies in check, but Eridan eventually wants to take things to a more intimate level, meaning he can't reciprocate and keep her from doing stupid things. However, the chore of constantly keeping her moirail from killing off all the land-dwelling trolls has emotionally drained Feferi. Once they get into the Medium and she doesn't have to look after him anymore, Feferi tells him that they can't be more than friends and splits with her newfound freedom. Later they seem to just barely be able to interact with each other, and in the end, Eridan goes on a rampage, but before Feferi can run him through with the culling fork to stop him, he one-shot kills her with White Science of Hopelessness.
  • Hooky: Although Dani and Dorian develop strong friendships and crushes on other characters, they are still the closest to each other, first and foremost. Dani even undergoes Sanity Slippage and ends up as The Ophelia after she thinks she sees Dorian die.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! — Even though she likes to seem aloof, Galatea clearly needs to believe her sister Molly is there for her. She comes close to having a panic attack at even the slightest suspicion that Molly might abandon her.
  • In the now-defunct Loserz, Jodie does not take her two friends leaving her alone for other activities well at all. It only takes about a day or two apart from them for her to go insane and try to replace them with puppets.
  • Marten is this for Faye in Questionable Content, in the earlier parts of the comic. Character Development hit Faye, making her attachment to Marten vanish. It was difficult for both of them.

    Web Original 
  • Dan becomes this to Michael in Agents of Cracked. According to Michael, if Dan left, "I'd get really sad, and then I'd die. Is that what you want?!"
  • Ask A Manager: One female letter-writer describes being used as a Living Emotional Crutch by multiple male employees she has to work with as part of her job (and they get huffy when she doesn't want to), describing it as emotional vomiting.
  • Tacoma is this for Donnie in Demo Reel. He loves Rebecca too, but whenever Tacoma's upset or sick, there's a suspiciously large amount of crying and cuddling going on.
  • Dream SMP: During the Exile arc, Ranboo was one of the few people to have consistently sought out Tommy's company regardless of distance or circumstance, even interacting with him through letters when he wasn't online. Ranboo also tried to combat Dream's narrative of manipulation over Tommy, insisting that Tubbo still cared about himnote  and telling Tommy that he never received an invite to the beach party. This parallels Wilbur and Tommy's dynamic during their time in Pogtopia, with Ranboo acting as the voice of reason trying to stop Tommy from harming himself or others. The two grew apart after the Doomsday War, but after Tommy's resurrection, they are very slowly mending their friendship. Ranboo is very willing to offer Tommy support and is very patient with the other teen — understanding Tommy's lashing out is coming from all the terrible experiences he's recently undergone. Tommy seems appreciative of this, and despite his initial hostility towards Ranboo for marrying his Heterosexual Life-Partner, Tubbo, he's said that he trusts Ranboo a lot and considers him one of his best friends.
  • Double Life SMP: When everyone leaves Pearl, including her soulmate who chose to defy the Red String of Fate gimmick of the season, Tilly, her Canine Companion, is the only one who is there for her. When Tilly is killed in the final battle, Pearl goes berserk and almost effortlessly kills Impulse, Bdubs, Cleo, and Martyn with an axe and her army of dogs.
  • Iriana and Mille are this to each other in Ilivais X. Iriana has nobody else, as while she's decent enough to the male members of the team, she's still quite afraid of men. The only reason she avoids constantly searching for ways to die is that she wants to figure out exactly what she feels. Mille, on the other hand, is so used to being a one-night-stand object of lust that she feels unloved and is obsessed with earning the love of someone who doesn't just want to sleep with her. Granted, she's far more capable of independence and will act on her own, but if separated from Iriana she shifts all of her thoughts to bringing them back together, and can't stand to keep away even after a brief period of being abused by her.
  • RWBY:
    • Neo had a very isolated upbringing due to being mute. She's introduced in Volume 2 as Roman's partner-in-crime, but it's later revealed that he was also her Only Friend; she's had an isolated existence because of her muteness, and Roman was the first person who really understood her and allowed her to express herself in her own way. After Roman's death in Volume 3, Neo disappears to train, returning in Volume 6 hell-bent on revenge. Although she initially goes after Cinder, Cinder convinces her to blame Ruby, who was fighting Roman at the time he died. In Volume 9, when she thinks she's succeeded at killing Ruby, she's reduced to an Empty Shell by her complete lack of purpose now that she can't even avenge him anymore. After getting possessed, getting a dose of the Tree's leaves bringing up all her regrets, and being freed, she finally decides to Ascend into a new person rather than hold onto him any longer.
    • Salem was imprisoned in a tower from birth by a cruel father, only to be rescued by the World's Best Warrior, who was the first person to ever truly care about her as an individual. His death sends her into a downward spiral that leads to her becoming the Big Bad. Abandoned and cursed with Complete Immortality by the gods for trying to resurrect Oz and then turning humanity against them when they refuse, she reunites with Oz after the God of Light resurrects him to guide humanity towards redemption. Upon realising she's evil, Oz turns against her; their mortal children do not survive the ensuing battle. Now they're trapped in an endless cycle of pain, as she fights to end the world and her immortality, and he fights to save the world and life itself.